Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pacquiao vs. Cotto: Part 1

After much intrepid internet research, my friend Javid found a Filipino barbeque place called Tito Rad’s, on 49th St. and Queens Boulevard where $20 would get you two beers, some unexplained “appetizers,” and, most importantly, a place to watch the Manny Pacquiao fight on pay-per-view. Living in New York these days, you get accustomed to 1) there being at least one of any type of ethnicity-place that you can imagine somewhere in the five boroughs and 2) being able to locate them on the web pretty easily; but if there is a Filipino sports bar somewhere, they have a lousy web-presence, since Javid had been looking for them all week, and Tito Rad’s was all that he could come up with.

Once we had a place to watch it, I gave myself over to eager anticipation of the fight. Indeed, all week I had been feeling excited, to an extent that surprised me, since I am not much of a boxing fan at all, and know little about the sport. As Saturday progressed, I became increasingly happy at the prospect of watching it, as well as irrationally nervous that we would find some way of missing it anyway. I mentioned this to Javid, while we were waiting for some friends of mine to arrive from New Jersey before heading out to the restaurant, and he said that he had been looking forward to the fight all week as well.

The obvious reason for the anticipation was simply Manny Pacquiao. Sometimes an athlete comes along whose combination of extreme talent and intense personal charisma allows them to utterly transcend the boundaries of the sport. Babe Ruth is the classic example; it kind of hurts me to say it, but Derick Jeter is a contemporary one. Pacquiao is definitely in this category: a devastating boxer in a number of weight classes, he possess an almost thoroughly unprecedented combination of speed and power, as well as a charming, smiling demeanor. Pacquiao is a true national hero in a way that it is hard for Americans to understand—possibly because there hasn’t really been anyone who fit the bill for the entire nation since the aforementioned Bambino. Filipinos are probably, as a nation, far more heavily invested in Pacquiao than Dominicans are in Pedro Martinez. Pacquiao’s post-fighting career will almost certainly take him into elected office; he has made movies and lately has been talking scripts with Sylvester Stallone; and his band was scheduled to play in Las Vegas immediately after the fight, regardless of the result.

Additionally several fates rested on the outcome of the contest. A victory for the Pacman would cement his place as one of the all time great boxers and set him up for a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.; while a loss would certainly signal the beginning of the end of his fighting career and everything that it had meant. Miguel Cotto, Pacquiao’s opponent, was well known and respected in fighting circles, but not to the general public: a victory would put him in a position to become one of the most prominent faces of boxing.

Furthermore, boxing itself is a sport in obvious crisis. In addition to being hurt by the limitations of the pay-per-view market, it is currently fighting for those pay-per-view dollars with mixed martial arts events, whose growing popularity is eating away at boxing’s fanbase. Boxing needs superstars to connect to the general public, preferably in the heavyweight class, and no heavyweight has drawn much attention since Mike Tyson. Welterweight Oscar de la Hoya had pretty much been boxing’s meal ticket until he got dismantled by Pacquiao in a non-title fight; if Pacquiao could win a title as a welterweight against Cotto, the resulting fight against Mayweather would have the chance to be a defining fight for a new generation of boxing fans. Indeed, regardless of the outcome, if Pacquiao vs. Cotto was in any way a particularly good or interesting fight it would do a good deal to assure boxing’s immediate future and forestall the kick-boxing/jujitsu/grappling masters at the gates.

So, in regard to all these questions, the fight contained the thrill of an election: we had entered a phase of total uncertainty, but, at the end of a defined interval, we would, necessarily, have answers.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Who am I?

What famous director is shooting this ballgame? Post your answers in the comment section. Send a description of your favorite director filming a ballgame to samsmetsblog@gmail.com and I’ll put them up as well.

Alright, camera 1, I want you to stay focused on the pitcher’s eyes; camera 2, I want you to stay focused on the batter’s eyes. Now, in the moments leading up to the pitch we are going to franticly cut back and forth between camera 1 and camera 2, then a quick cut to camera 3, which will have been focused on the batters hands, and stay with camera 3 for only the split second when the bat is actually being swung. Now, someone call up Ennio Morricone and see if he can do anything with “take me out to the ballgame.” Oh, and for the post-game interviews I want all the Latino players to use fake Irish accents, and all the white guys to pretend that they are Mexicans.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Game 6

“No! I am not Alex Rodriguez, nor was meant to be…”

I watched an inning or so in the local pizza place. The guy behind the counter argued that the Post-season had been rigged in the Yankee’s favor and he claimed that the dimensions of new Yankee stadium were illegal according to an obscure rule in Major League Baseball. A friend of his, a customer at the pizza place, had worked on the lights at the new stadium, and he said that the Stienbuners paid off more people than anyone else in the state of New York.

After this, he went into a sadly predictable anti A-Rod rant. If he were given the chance, he would not ask for more than $2,000 a game to play baseball because he, the pizza place guy, loves to play baseball; he did not understand why it had to be all about the money. He was also annoyed that A-Rod identifies himself as Dominican when he was actually born in the States; the pizza guy is Italian American, loves Italy, couldn’t be prouder of his heritage, but is also proud to acknowledge himself as an American first. I submitted, at this point, that while A-Rod’s claims about his heritage did not necessarily speak highly of him, it was only to be expected because A-Rod is clearly mad, but the pizza place guy remained hardened to A-Rod’s plight.

I like A-Rod because so many things about him--Kabala, Buddhism, the centaur pictures, the photo shoot of him making out with his image in the mirror, the steroids, Madonna, Kate Hudson-- seem calculated to fly in the face of the things that it is easy and pleasant to believe about people who are extremely, extremely good at baseball.

My feeling is that the truth is that A-Rod, and very few other players in the history of the game, posses a quality related to their extreme excellence that place them somewhat outside of the ordinary human understanding. Ted Williams was like this: he feuded with the Boston media, remained aloof from fans, and had his body frozen by a bunch of delusional crooks.

The pizza place guy judges A-Rod by the standards of the pizza place and by these standards A-Rod inevitably fails; the specious process of relating the experiences of A-Rod, baseball superstar, to his own experience as a pizza place guy is somehow important to how the pizza place guy perceives with the world and defines himself. This is ok—it does not make much more or less sense than what most people think about their lives, but it also does not lead him to wise opinions about player evaluation in baseball.

Later, I was watching Matsui come to the plate in my apartment. As he stepped in, the camera cut from a shot of Matsui’s face, to a shot of a fan with a poster with Matsui’s number and a picture of Godzilla, and then the camera cut directly back to Matsui’s face. The Godzilla on the poster seemed strangely childish, a young and whimsical monster, and I realized that it must be hard for Matsui to interpret the weird racial/cultural meanings of this image, and hit major league pitching all at once. Immediately after that, I realized that it was preposterous to think that Matsui had seen the Godzilla poster-- I had only been lead to that conclusion by the grammar of the camera. The truth was that Matsui probably could not see into the crowd at all, do to the lights, and there was little chance that he could focus on an individual poster-- in all likelihood all of his attention was focused on the positioning of the defense, if he was not completely taken up by some inner process, only understood by himself. However, from a life time of watching movies and television I had learned that a shot of a face, followed by a shot of a thing, followed by a return to the face, means that the owner of the face is thinking about the thing—I was so accustomed to this, that, for an instant, I had been completely sure that I knew what Matsui was thinking about, and I felt completely comfortable in applying my own values and beliefs to what I imagined were Hideki Matsui’s experiences.

In order to capture an audience’s interest, telecasts try to get the audience to identify with the player as much as possible; they accomplish this through a series of codes that they have adapted, perhaps subconsciously, from movies and television. This makes for interesting broadcasts; it also encourages people to participate imagine a sympathy with ballplayers that has no basis in reality whatsoever.

In other words, what if baseball telecasts were directed by Werner Herzog? If they were, I think that the pizza place guy would have a totally different opinion of Alex Rodriguez.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Jerry Manuel: So you wanted me to fix your roof?
Omar Minaya: Yeah, I’d do it myself, but I am exhausted after spending all day on the phone with the Cubs trying to re-acquire Aaron Hielman.
Jerry: You’re a madman…. Anyway, do you have any tools?
Omar: Sure, here they are.
Jerry:Um… this is one of those plastic Fischer-Price toy toolsets.
Omar: I have some really good tools only I have lent them to the Wilpons.
Jerry: I hate to say this, but I really don’t think these are going to work.
Omar: Just make do for now! And when I get my good tools back, everything is totally going to be awesome.
Jerry: I mean, there is no fucking way that I am going to be able to successfully fix your roof with these things. Do you think you could go out and get some other tools?
Omar: And be stuck with TWO sets of tools when the Wilpons return my original ones? I think not!
Jerry: The idea that I would be able to fix your roof with these things is laughable and insane.
Omar: Jerry, there aren’t any tools out there that are better than the tools that we will be getting back. Get to work.
Jerry: So when will the Wilpons return your tools?
Omar: There is no timetable yet, but probably mid August.

Jerry: Not only the Phillies, but also the Marlins and the Braves, have done a better job of fixing their roofs. The few remaining fans of your roof hate you on a deep, personal level.
Omar: But we’re better than the Nationals, right?
Jerry: Having a better roof than a man who lives in a cardboard box is not something to be proud of.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dangerous and Insane

Much as I have previously supported Jerry Manuel, and much as I do like some of the things that he has done, tonight, in his post game interview he exposed a line of thinking seems dangerous and insane-- to the extent that if someone were to advocate removing him, I could not say that they did not have a point.

Specifically, I have generally liked the way that Manuel has used the shiny new bullpen: his willingness to use K-Rod in non-save situations speaks of a flexibility of thinking, a capacity to look beyond the specious statistic of the Save, that speaks well of Manuel’s managerial abilities. On Tuesday, however, after Sean Green allowed two walks and the tieing run in the seventh, he opted to leave him in the game to give up a decisive three-run homer. The Mets never scored again, and suffered a depressing three-run loss.

When asked about the bullpen’s failure in the post-game interview, Manuel said that it did not bother him, because these types of meltdowns were inevitable in a bullpen (this is actually true, see Mets--2008, and also Mets—2007), as much as his club’s inability to score an extra three runs over the last three frames (this is also true—the Mets inability to score in the final innings has gotten to be depressing and weird). However, while both these statements are true, taken together, the way that Manuel put them, they yield a line of thinking that seems deranged at best, and sneaky and disingenuous if seen in a less sympathetic light.

Manuel should have taken Greene out—and even if he thought that his club should have come up with three more runs, there was no sane reason to put that theory into test, when he could have kept the lead or the tie by managing the bullpen more aggressively. There was no reason to test Sean Greene’s metal in a game which, while played in April, counts every bit as much as a game in September.

It is less flattering to think that Manuel deliberately chose to deflect attention from the aspect of the game that he screwed up (bullpen management) by bringing up the aspect of the game that everyone has been whining about in the papers—namely the Mets’ inability to hit in “clutch” situations. If Manuel had removed the struggling Sean Green, and then Green’s replacement had screwed up, Manuel would have been blamed for making a bad choice—if he left Greene in to give up a mere four runs, then the obvious culprit becomes the Mets’ well documented inability to hit late in games or with runners in scoring position. When you find your in-game decisions influenced by the ravings in The Post and the fear of blame, you are failing at one of the extremely few responsibilities of a manager. Yeah, the Mets could hit more, but Manuel also straight-up goofed with the bullpen—which is fine, as long as he admits it.

Speaking of dangerous and insane, Steve Somers is an escaped mental patient who is, for reasons thoroughly beyond my understanding, allowed to host a late-night sports talk show on WFAN—which I feel compelled to listen to, like a teenager playing with an infected pimple. His deal is that he calls out Latino players for not hustling, while doing something that is approximately a Jewish-psychiatrist/Jerry Seinfeld shtick. For the last week and a half he has been going on and on about Beltran’s lack of hustle as evidenced by the two (count ‘em—TWO) recent times when he failed to slide, when he probably should have slid (Beltran is hitting about .400—for as long as he does that, he can ride around the bases in a fucking unicycle), while extolling the hustling virtues of Daniel Murphy—I like Murphy as much as the next guy, but if he ever turns into a gold glove fielder hitting .400, let me know.

…also his show features a clip that is dialog from The Untouchables set to music from The Godfather—which is like incest or something. The quote is DeNiro going on about how “every man who gets to be a certain age should have enthusiasms” which is a great quote to use as a hook for a radio program about baseball, but the music just makes it…wrong.

J.J. Putz had his first real screw up as a Met today, giving up the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth. I await the back page of tomorrow’s New York Post with interest.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

In case you were wondering, they go together terribly:

Sam: You know, I might be exactly the millionth fan to watch a Mets game while having gin and a bagel.
Sam’s Roommate: Could be.
Sam: You have to figure that, more than any other franchise, the Mets tend to draw the gin and bagel crowd.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ranking starts by Mets pitching:

Since the Mets have only played seven games so far, I can still remember pretty much what happened in all of them. I thought it would be interesting to rank the starting pitching in each game, and see if there is anything to learn from doing this. If I am feeling really industrious, I might update this list as the season progresses:

1) 4/12: Johan Santana vs. Marlins: the Met’s ace went seven innings, striking out 13 for his highest K total as a Met, and walked only one. The Mets lost the game anyway, largely do to an even more dominant performance by Florida’s Josh Johnson and an error by Daniel Murphy that led to the Marlin’s only runs.

2) 4/11: Livan Hernandez vs. Marlins: “brother of El Duque” pitched 6 2/3 innings, before giving up two runs in the seventh, allowing six hits while striking out four and walking three. This is probably the high end of what the Mets can except from their fifth starter, who, at this point in his career, is regarded as durable and “not all that bad” rather than “good.”

3) 4/6: Johan Santana vs. Reds: Santana only went 5 2/3 innings, largely because he needed a large number of pitches to get through the first. In the sixth, he gave up two hits and a run scored on a sacrifice fly, but this just let the Mets show off their shiny new bullpen. Murphy, who Santana would go on to throw under the bus* for costing them the game in Santana’s next start, won this one for Johan with a home run and an RBI groundout.

4) 4/10: John Maine vs. Marlins: Maine gave up two runs in five innings, both on solo home runs. The home runs aren’t great, and neither is the shortness of the outing, which is only ranked this high because Maine pitches on a team with Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez.

5) 4/8: Pelfrey vs. Reds: Big Pelf got clobbered in the first inning, giving up four runs, but steadied after that, allowing no more runs to score over the next four innings. A lot of people are happy with Pelfrey for bearing down after a difficult first, but I prefer to blame him for a dreadful inning that the Mets were only able to overcome by scoring a lot of runs.

6) 4/9: Oliver Perez vs. Reds: Ollie pitched three scoreless innings; he also pitched another inning and a third where the Reds scored eight, giving up five hits and five walks. This was an abysmal outing on a couple of levels, and should probably be ranked dead last.

7) 4/13:Mike Pelfrey vs. Padres: For giving up a home run in the first ever at-bat in the Mets new park (something that had never happened in the entire recorded history of baseball), Pelf gets credit for the worst start of the season, at least until someone else does something shockingly dreadful: your move, Ollie. Peflrey only lasted five innings, and gave up five runs.

*If, as the New York Post seems to believe, “throw under the bus” means “tell a reporter about a thing that happened in a baseball game.”

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Nate the Great and Mike Piazza

Whenever someone like Johan Santana comes from one of the provinces to play in New York, there is always a slew of articles and discussions about weather they can handle the intense media scrutiny. This is almost always a big waste of time: the Johans of the world exist on a plane of greatness that is all their own and they are going to dominate-- no matter how many Joel Shermans ask them stupid questions while they are waiting to take a shower.

This is not to say that the New York media has no impact: there is a second class of sports hero who achieves its greatness through a combination of dominance and narrative—and in these instances, the media becomes, not merely the lens through which the greatness can be perceived, but the actual author of the greatness. This frequently leads to the uncouth spectacle of the media, like so many Frankensteins (the scientist, not the monster), feverishly trying to rip apart the creature into which they had just laboriously managed to breathe life. Mike Piazza, formerly of the Mets, and the Knicks’ Nate Robinson are both good examples of this phenomenon.

If he had put his mind to it, Johan Santana could probably have been a better catcher than Mike Piazza; I don’t think that there is any doubt that he could have been a better baller than Nate (I see him as a point guard, getting around 15 points a game, to go along with seven each of rebounds and assists)-- yet both of those players are or were far more important to the identity of their team than Santana is to the current Mets. Both were poorly regarded players (Piazza taken miserably late in the draft* because it was widely believed that he could never field or hit and Nate nearly a foot shorter than many of his fellow players) who went on, not only to have productive careers, but to lead their teams; both embraced their role as hero-of-the-everyman, winning over the fans of the franchise in ways that the Santanas, despite (or perhaps because of) their dominance, will never be able to.

Piazza, of course, was a superstar when he came to New York, but during his time here he inevitably found himself in the center of the team’s most intense situations: his feud with Clemmens, the rumors about his sexuality, his quest for the catcher’s home-run record, and his towering home-run in the first game played in New York after 9-11. Nate is more directly engaged with the fans than any of the other Knicks: he encourages the crowd to cheer during games, part of his free-throw routine includes a salute to acknowledge people that he met playing on-line video games, and he will occasionally take the microphone before games-- to either thank the fans or apologize for the state of the team.

The spotlights that the two men inhabited, however, existed before they arrived and will still exist, focused on other players, when the two of them have faded into obscurity. The narratives existed, and were only waiting for the people willing to act them out; the crowds existed and were only waiting for the appropriate object on which to focus their affection.

It is in light of this fact that I would point out that both men probably took steroids. Only one boy, in the entire high school, can be cast as Hamlet in the school play; and while many might crave the attention, the odds will always favor the ones who need it and are willing to either flirt with the drama teacher or poison their own fathers in order to get their Stanislavsky on.

Nate’s juicing, of course, is purely a matter of my speculation. Nate’s shortness, particularly on a court with other NBA players, is so obvious that it is easy to miss the fact that he is built like a sawed-off Schwarzenegger. Additionally, the frenzy that he gets into when he is either at his best or his worst is, at least, suspiciously similar to the thing called ‘roid rage. Finally, as someone “5’9” in sneakers” trying to have a career in the NBA he would have to be insane (or insaner) to not do everything in his power to give himself an advantage—such as bulking up with performance enhancing drugs.

Even though they have yet to accuse him of juicing, and thereby soiling the immaculate purity of the game of professional basketball, the New York media has never lacked reasons to abuse Nate Robinson. Rather than dwell on the delightful awesomeness of the crazy little man who carved himself a niche in the NBA, they have chosen to berate him for being macho and immature: vilifying him for his role in the 2006 brawl with the Nuggets and calling him out for taking too many impossible shots. I remember reading an article in The Post from the 06-07 season that contrasted the juvenile antics of Robinson with the steadiness and dedication of Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury. As recently as last week, The Post ran an article about how Nate should be suspended for an altercation with New Orleans’ Chris Paul, in a rare game that Knicks actually won.

Paradoxically, while Nate fights too often, Piazza did not fight enough. Piazza (who was never openly accused of steroids during his playing time, either) was always called out for being too soft and seen as something of a prim Donna and a metro-sexual (at best) wuss. Again, the New York press opted not to worship the player that had come out of nowhere and achieved greatness, and instead set about diligently trying to dynamite the statue that they had helped to erect themselves.

It seems that one of the principals of late capitalism is that “we the people” are to be denied our folk heroes. Adulation is reserved for the LeBron James’ of the world, the god-like players with whom we manifestly have nothing in common. The players that we might relate to, the ones who acknowledge that they are living out all of our dreams, must always be reduced to tragic, incomplete figures: their flaws, either manufactured or magnified, taking up far more ink than the tale of how one of us conquered the world’s brightest stage.

*In thinking about what different animals the NBA and MLB are, it is worth noting that Nate was taken late in the first of only two rounds of the NBA draft, while Piazza was drafted in the 62nd round of the MLB draft, meaning that nearly two thousand players had been drafted ahead of him. Additionally, while the NBA draft covers the entire world, the MLB draft only applies to domestic players: Latin American players are generally signed by sweaty men with sunglasses, a radar-gun, and a brief-case full of cash. Of course, the two drafts are not actually analogous events: the equivalent to Piazza’s late drafting in Nate’s biography, was when he made his college basketball team as a walk-on, having gone to school on a football scholarship. When Nate was taken in the first round of the draft (fellow Knick David Lee was actually the very last pick of that first round) it was sort of like a 62nd round pick, on the strength of a good showing in the lower levels of the farm system, being called up to triple-A.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I know what you are thinking, ladies and gentlemen, but don’t worry: the Pope is still Catholic. I checked.

A little while ago Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote a column that can be summed up thusly:

1) Because Mike Piazza started as an obscure non-prospect who was only drafted in the 62nd round because he was Tommy Lasorda’s godson, and then went on to become the all time home run leader for catchers, and also because he had a bad case back acne (which is commonly associated with steroid use), Joel Sherman suspects that Mike Piazza might have done steroids.

2) Since rumored steroid users (specifically Mark McGwire) seem not to be getting into the hall of fame, Sherman wonders what to do about players, like Piazza, who really seem like they probably did do steroids, even though there are no rumors or evidence that they did.

3) In order to get to the bottom of this, Sherman recently asked Piazza if he had done steroids. Piazza said no, but Joel Sherman has heard steroid denials from the likes of Andy Pettitte, Jason Giambi, and A-Rod, so you will forgive Joel Sherman if he remains skeptical.

4) The whole situation seems to demand that Joel Sherman, paid baseball columnist, think critically about baseball, and he is not amused. He seems to imply that it is all A-Rod’s fault.

Then, Murray Chass wrote a blog post about Sherman’s column, the gist of which is 1) I, Murray Chass, have long suspected Piazza of steroid use, and think it was good of Joel Sherman to bring it up, but 2) Sherman really did not write enough about the back acne, so he is still a crappy little man writing for a crappy little paper. Chass had wanted to write about the back acne and steroids when Piazza had played for the Mets, but was prevented from doing so, because his editors were Mets fans. In 2004, when steroid testing was implemented, Piazza’s back acne mysteriously cleared up.

He also includes this gem: “He [Piazza] told Sherman the hitting came from hard work. That’s what they all said when they were suspected of having used steroids. We used to fall for that line. That’s one of the reasons we missed the advent and presence of steroids. We were gullible.” You were gullible, motherfucker? You are a goddamn journalist: your job description is pretty much ‘don’t be gullible.’ The casualness with which he admits to being an utter failure at his profession is somewhat shocking.

Anyway, now, in a new book mainly about Roger Clemens, The Rocket that Fell to Earth, Jeff Pearlman has reiterated the steroid accusations, with all like sources and quotes and stuff. I would add that Mathew Cerrone’s response at the end of the quote from Perlman’s book is a very solid summary of (what I hope are) the feelings of most fans

While Sherman and Chass put together a little clinic on how you shouldn’t write about PEDs, providing shrillness, week excuses for professional failings, and a lack of actual information, there is an aspect of the Piazza story that intrigues me: Pearlman presents Piazza as entirely a product of steroids, whereas the narratives surrounding most of the prominent players accused of juicing (Bonds, Clemens, A-Rod, et all) all include pre-steroid and/or post-steroid phases when they were also pretty good.

While I don’t have much problem accepting that Mike Piazza did steroids, my guess is that there was probably some reason for Piazza’s transformation from non-prospect to home-run-leader-at-his-position, beyond simply “steroids”—although I have no idea what that reason might be. It would be nice if the tone of the tone of the discussion was such that Piazza would want to tell us, but he must know that if he ever gets tempted to be honest about this, his only reward will be a decade’s worth of articles from the Chasses and Shermans of the world about why he shouldn’t get into the hall of fame.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

WBC: Japan vs. China

At some point in the future, when racism and nationalism have ceased to exist, I am going to look back to the time that I got up at four fucking thirty in the morning to watch China and Japan compete in a game that insane Americans invented, and think that I did my part.

China takes the field behind Ray Chang, a shortstop in the Pittsburgh system. Chang, who was born to Chinese parents in Kansans City, finally got picked up in informal tryouts after going un-drafted.

Japan, the defending Classic Champion with a roster that boasts plenty of big league talent, is starting Yu Darvish, a 22 year-old Japanese-Iranian phenom and sex symbol, currently playing for the Nippon Ham Fighters (the Fighters are owned by the Nippon Ham company-- they do not do battle with pigs). Darvish, if anything, makes getting up in the middle of the night make sense: he is supposed to be a wonderful, rare talent. In Japan, he is something like a combination of Leonardo DiCaprio and young Doc Gooden and although scouts have thought that he profiled as a front line starter in the American leagues for the last couple of years, he apparently has no interest in coming to the states. According to Wikipedia, he was once suspended from his high school team for smoking a cigarette in a pachinko parlor.

I am not a scout, it is the middle of the damn night, and the competition from the Chinese hitters is far from brisk, but after watching Darvish pitch four no-hit innings (after which he was replaced), he really does seem like the goods. He has an easy, powerful delivery that is amazing to watch. At no point was China remotely close to touching him.

Japan took a 3 run lead in the top of the 3rd, off of a home run from 3rd baseman Shuichi Murata, but have not scored otherwise, despite threatening repeatedly. For China, as of the 5th inning, the highlight was Ray Chang making a nifty play to throw out a runner at home.

In the 6th, Japan scored a fourth run on a hilarious balk: the Chinese pitcher was a submariner, and as he brought his hand up to throw, he just twisted his hand to throw to first at the last instant of his motion. Yeah, you’re not supposed to do that. Ichiro went 0-5, but made a good catch in the outfield.

From the broadcasters:
-only one Chinese player weighs over 200 lbs
-Something about the stitching in the ball used in Japanese baseball is more conducive to breaking balls, for which Japanese pitchers are known.

The Japanese team looks really good, and should be a serious threat in the tournament. If they were a team in the majors, I don’t think they would be worse than .500. Yu Darvish is the real deal, and the rest of the pitching also seems extremely good. Their offence seemed disappointing, but they got men on base in most innings and were consistently threatening—they could have easily had more runs. I was somewhat disappointed that I did not get to see any needless sacrifice bunts, which is apparently a feature of Japanese baseball.

The Chinese team is not good, although Chang looks like a fairly decent player. If they want to improve, I think they should use their massive amount of US debt to try and get Manny Ramirez.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


David Wright: "I know how hard I work... I don't want anyone taking shortcuts."

And yet... D-Wright endourses a product that is banned by the NCAA, for being a performance enhancing substance.

[my point isn't that Wright is a cheat. It's that when you're dealing with these things, there's, like, some nuance and stuff]

Oh, What Have They done to you, Old Friend?

I wrote more or less this e-mail in response to a text from a friend asking me if I was shocked by A-Rod’s steroid use:

I think, basically, that people who are serious about baseball have, for the last couple of years, recognized that steroids were amazingly fucking rampant and there is no real reason to assume that anyone was clean, and no revelations of steroid use should be seen as "shocking." That said there are a couple of points that I would make in no particular order, some of which would be "shocking" if the main actors (the government and the media) had not established such an abysmal track record of behavior such that the only surprising thing would be if they had acted decently:

1)if you asked me, prior to the revelation, if I thought A-rod was a juicer, I would have said probably not-- because there weren’t any particularly reliable rumors, and he never seemed unreasonably huge. That said, I really am not at all surprised. It does fit in with the conventional interpretation of his psychology (insecure, anxious for greatness/ultra competitive). I generally think that psychoanalyzing a guy based on stuff in the sports section/deadspin is a big waste of time, but if you buy the conventional interpretation of the guy, the juicing fits just fine.

2) The circumstances under which this was revealed really were appallingly unethical: In 2003, MLB decided to do a supposedly anonymous survey test of all major leaguers to determine the extent of steroid use: if over 5% of players tested positive then they would institute random testing the next year: 104 players (over 5%) tested positive and the testing was introduced. The survey test was conducted by a 3rd party contracted by MLB. Somehow, information linking these players to their positive tests was kept (its hard to see why it existed in the first place), and was seized by the government as part of (I think) the IRS investigation of BALCO. How it then got leaked to the SI.com people isn't clear either-- but it was astoundingly unethical for the list to have existed, astoundingly incompetent of the Players Association to have allowed it to exist, and astoundingly stupid/weird that the government felt entitled to take it as part of an investigation of a fairly unrelated thing.

3) It is really hard to guess what went on, but it seems as if the SI.com people had access to the whole list of 103 and chose to only, initially, release A-Rod's name, which is just sort of fucked up. HE WAS NOT THE ONLY GUY DOING THAT SHIT, and releasing only his name is such unethical journalism that it really makes your head hurt.

4) the media's hysterical approach to the steroid issue is appallingly useless. I find myself fascinated by the story of steroids in baseball, but the media has consistently reduced this to a black and white issue, which is not informative, accurate, or useful. Keep in mind that these are the people who have the most access to baseball, and it is kind of their job to write about shit (like a steroid epidemic) that is newsworthy in the sport: yet the writers who are freaking out about steroids right now are, for the most part, people who acted like steroids did not exist in the late '90s,-early 2000s, when it was taking over the sport, and kept their mouths shut when it seemed like it might be sort of good for baseball. In the word’s of Baseball Prospectus’ Joe Sheehan “Take your pick: they missed the story, or they were too chicken-shit to report it.”Now they are repulsively jumping on a bandwagon to make news.

5) The evidence connecting PED use to performance is not all that good. Stat guys are not hugely impressed by the effect of PEDs (although what they base that on is unclear); anecdotally there are a ton of scrubs who took a ton of steroids and remained scrubs.

6) A weird side-effect of this is that Jose Conseco was right: the only person who had linked A-Rod to 'roids was Conseco, who claimed that he introduced A-Rod to a dealer in his 2nd book "vindicated." He also claimed that A-Rod attempted to seduce his [Conseco’s] wife, making it seem fairly reasonable that he would be lie about the 'roids, on account of Conseco is an ass. Conseco seems like such a slime-ball that it actually is shocking when he is right about anything, but his track record with steroids is surprisingly accurate: most of the people he has named have eventually been implicated by other, non-dirtbag, sources.

7) efforts to eliminate performance enhancing drugs (which I basically support) are fairly quixotic. I recently read an article by Will Carrol, the sports medicine guru, about sitting down with a guy who was pushing the next big thing, called SARMs, which is like steroids but better and way, way less detectable. Almost no one has heard of this shit, but as of this year, players in several sports WILL be on it. There is always going to be a PEDs out there that are slightly ahead of the curve, and the innovation will almost always be on the side of the cheaters, rather than enforcement. And with the size of major league contacts, there will always be an incentive to cheat, that some people will give in to.

8) I am WAY less surprised to find out that A-Rod did steroids than I would be to find out that Nate Robinson does NOT do steroids. Honestly, if that guy passed a drug test, I would be shocked.

9) INTEGRITY OF THE GAME IS A FUCKING MYTH: all those old ball players that you love so much were all on speed and threw spitballs. Sorry.


When I went home and watched Keith Olberman talking approvingly about Obama’s comment that A-Rod’s actions had “tarnished an era of baseball,” I realized that there was a little more to be said on the subject.

The basic belief that justifies such excesses of the previous regime as Gutamno Bay, torture, and domestic surveillance is that once a person has stepped over a certain line, they stand to loose their personhood; it is the belief that rights to privacy and the protection of the law are not universal, but must be earned by unfailing allegiance and compliance. One might think that for Olberman, and possibly even Obama, the violation of A-Rod’s rights that must have occurred might be at least worth mentioning, regardless of what wrongdoings that violation had revealed.

The last remaining justification for depriving A-Rod of all rights to privacy and due process is to say that it is all about the money: that by making his record breaking millions-- which is given to him by us when we buy a ticket to the ballgame, watch commercials during baseball games, or read the Post—that through our unprecedented investment in A-Rod, we have purchased a piece of A-Rod, and now own the right to pry into all aspects of his ridiculous life. Of course, there is something to this: A-Rod’s millions give him power and privileges that most of us can never reasonably dream of, in theory, they allow him to be existentially different from the rest of us, and so he might be held to an existentially higher standard. However, I would put it to you, that, in a world in a financial crisis, where thirty five hundred of A-Rod’s record breaking contracts were handed to the very institutions that had created the financial crisis in the first place, and then these thirty five hundred A-Rods promptly vanished: if you were to look at the ratio of gratuitous compensation to wrongdoing, A-Rod is not the worst guy out there. He is probably not in the top ten.

The ritual humiliation of the A-Rods of the world serves to set an upper limit on the amount of dignity that any one individual is entitled to, and serves to show what anyone stands to loose if they step over the line. Stay the fuck on the reservation, America.